all published before in pieces, just putting this series together, <14,000 words
While the geneticists are telling us the old Nature/Nurture debate has been made obsolete or been solved, depending who you talk to, I just went ahead and solved it.
Now that’s a long title, but it’s a great Tweet, isn’t it?
This is convergence, this little essay, for me this is where all the major threads in my mind come together: the ancient classic dialogue, human behaviour, child discipline, and yes – even trolling.
OK, that wasn’t bad, but this is just the bullet point brainstorming stage right now.
- A note about “things”
- A note about the “Nature” thing
- Trolling and narrowing the argument
- The “Nurture” thing, the Abusive Ape Theory
- Warrior society’s fears, head on, a lethal mutation (too late, we already have several)
- Liberals’ fear of science, dark hints
- The “Deep Roots of War” thing
Whups, turned into a Table of Contents. Maybe that’ll work.
- A note about “things”
I’ve written this idea many times, the idea that there are two sorts of mindsets, corresponding loosely with many of life’s dichotomies, one that sees things and one that sees processes. It’s never grown wings before, so I won’t try to force it today, I’ll simply say that I see motion and processes and a mind that sees things as explanations I find completely alien, I can’t fathom it. Things are players, not the play, I say this as self-expression, it’s a fact to me; I understand it’s not to everyone, in fact only to about half of us. But when we ask for instance, “Why are men X?”, I do not feel satisfied with an answer like “testosterone.” I cannot, in good faith to my reason, sign off on all the things that must be presumed and assumed to fit that “thing” into a meaningful sentence that can even be an answer at all to a bottomless question like “why?”
I mean, from that noun as an answer we don’t even know if the noun is an actor or an inhibitor – OK, maybe you do. I have spent my adult life in this misunderstanding here, that when a paper says, “correlated with” or “associated with,” that I have simply dug my heels in and opined that it isn’t specific enough be worth saying, that it indicates obfuscation, some science version of name dropping. I’m distrustful; I have been given to understand it means positive correlation, the presence of the agent in question, it just doesn’t take. The young idiot I was who got it wrong the first time is still screaming “well, why don’t you spell it out?”
I think the reality in this case, is the presence of one hormone indicates the past action of another, it can be a by product and neither actor nor inhibitor.
Hormones have gone through a few roles because of that, because it was produced, because it got used, because it didn’t get taken up again, evolving positions about what its presence meant. Nouns as answers are never the end and never can be. The search goes on for the verbs, what are these things doing? It was a textbook sort of example, to be sure, but, happy accident, it’s turning out to be a good one.
If I ask, “Why are men X?” and someone answers with a noun, “testosterone,” then it’s not fair to say anyone nods and walks away smugly knowing they have the answer, as also anyone reacting like Socrates or Pyrrho, with “I still know nothing,” (like me) is a logical extreme and not a real-life case. In real life, though, most peoples’ reactions are going to have a considerable portion of at least one of those responses, and probably some portion of both – meaning they either feel like they know or they don’t, to some degree – the point being that neither result is optimal by a mind like mine, one seems like empty understanding, a name but no role, and the other like no understanding at all. I need verbs, Man! I know, scientists know it and they’re looking and succeeding, and just because all I’m picking up from my internet connection are these buzzwords, these nouns, doesn’t mean that’s all there is going on, labeling. The point of this, though, is that that is all half of us want is the labels, or all of us are half-satisfied with names. A massive portion of our knowledge is this sort of half-knowledge, a catalogue of labels, that we use like shorthand, and the data compression costs detail.
Wherein, we know, lies the truth. I know, human brains were designed for human goals and the capital “T” Truth was not one of them. It is now, though, right? Has anyone heard the folks telling us the first bit telling us the second? Again, I am a suspicious, twisted little man and I see the general trend, the general voice of biology as sort of dark and . . . self supporting. There is this awful thing that if we identify some nasty, animal biological trait, that it’s some sort of “right,” natural and good or something . . . you see where I’m going, I don’t write novels, this won’t take long; we’re talking about Blank Slate liberals VS Nazi scientists here. Some folks assume a universal truth right around the corner and some folks don’t mind the idea of a relativistic world with only “biological truths.”
You know what? I got faith, of a sort, call it science, call it stubbornness, I think there is one universe, one world, and when “facts” appear to be in opposition, that is only an indication of a larger context, a larger world, and a larger understanding that is required to resolve the apparent conflicts. A single universe with a single complex universal truth may not have been what our minds were evolved to perceive, we would certainly be overqualified for life in the jungle or in any of our jobs were that the case, but it’s out there. If the world isn’t out there, what are our senses even for? If every biological organism lives in its own literal world, then I guess there is no communication, no shared world to try to understand, no social anything, is that it? The things we create exist because we create them, invisible things like rights and laws – the external universe is not one of those things.
Unfortunately, what this organ between our ears did evolve for is very much a part of the kind of mindset I’m battling here, it was evolved to make out friend from foe, and so this is its question, often as not, no matter what the text of the question may be: who are we talking about here? Give us a name. I think that’s why we think nouns are answers. I think we are capable of fighting memes and ideas, but mostly we were evolved to fight people, and the people we’re fighting are things, with names and addresses. This is our address, as some fellow in an est spinoff group that I attended said once, this is where we live, always bringing an amygdala to a frontal cortex fight. We want to reason, but we were evolved to fight. We try to see what we’re doing, and we come back with an endless list of possible actors, rather than actions.
Wow, that connection, nouns with people, why that mindset is so prevalent, that was empirical for me until now, anecdotal, and that just clicked into place here, as you see it and I didn’t see it coming either. This really is coming together, maybe. I am going somewhere even more basic with this argument, but I hope you all see the high-level, social importance of whether nouns pass as answers, as explanations generally, because that is the basic form of racism, xenophobia and scapegoating of all sorts: if “testosterone” is a satisfactory form of answer, then so is “terrorist,” at least to some folks who expect a “thing” for an answer, and of course those nouns get worse and worse from there.
OK, so that’s the limitation of nouns as explanations, and the biological roots of it, as I see it. Maybe a list next, things that have served us as explanations, past and present.
Nov. 15th., 2017
- A note about the “Nature” thing
Forget the list, sorry.
Nature – not the great outdoors, but some concept of a thing’s essence or purpose – as in ‘human nature,’ well, forget it, I’ve already given it away, haven’t I? The way it’s presented, it’s an archaic concept, religious, probably related to the idea of spirits being what animates and supports all things, as though a given thing has some single attribute, some fractal core that’s essential to a being or a thing that remains when all other attributes have somehow been wiped away. So, it’s a made-up thing, kind of meaningless. Mysticism aside, as the term has evolved and it’s a more complex human nature that we seek, the nature of the human being has become a moving target, really not more than a collection of empirical observations.
I mean, I know when people speak seriously about human nature, they mean a complex nature, but we don’t appear to have stopped using it in all the same sentences where a simple, pure nature would work better.
Still, perhaps talking about the “natures” of things is something we’re stuck with, part of the structure of our thought – of course, one in sense, it’s a sort of shorthand, we attempt to impose symbols over complex things when we need to visualize many of them in interaction. You don’t need as long a list of human traits as we have developed when there are fifty of them coming over the hill at you; at that point, you need some quick, accessible understanding of their natures. Probably something like that is at the root of the idea of ‘natures’ generally (and of us treating one another as less than complex sometimes), saves memory and therefore calories, which . . . evolution. Of course, the idea isn’t going away, ancient magical baggage and all.
Let’s change tack.
Simple, complex, questions of human natures simply mean “what are we?” really, and we are political for one thing, we’re trying to pass laws, we make sweeping policy decisions for ourselves and one another, and we do have to postulate some default for people, some starting point where we think they might settle into if it weren’t for our policies. An eternal, static human nature would indicate a stable or static world, and conversely, evolution and science suggest an evolving nature, probably a moving target. Nevertheless, “what are we now?” is still something we must at least feel we have an answer for in order to proceed with anything. We’ve always asked it, “what are we?” but we mostly have always had some sort of an answer too – and proceed we have, of course. I feel I have answered the question, but of course, I must play a game to do it.
I’m afraid I’m asking to modify the question.
Rejecting the simple, magical, “essence” sort of human nature Q&A, I am left with few major directions to go, “human nature” as a somewhat arbitrary collection of observations and the entire argument breaks down to details, which traits are “built in/genetic” and which not . . . it doesn’t address the issues our psyches are asking, which is, a short version we can trust. If we get that list of traits right, then it’s our answer – but it’s not a short, useful answer, is it? We’re really looking for some few things, and “good” and “bad” are not personality traits, nor are “friend” or “foe.” This is mostly the data we want in out human nature meme.
So, it’s a collection of traits, and an evolving target, it’s really about values, our interests: if humans are basically “good,” how would we treat them? If they’re mostly
“bad,” then how do we treat them? So, the original question, “what are we?” really means “are we good or bad?” which is sure to be related to a basic friend or foe question. The true answer to both questions is long and vague, both answers true often enough, good and bad, both answers have their proofs . . .
. . . for me, the question became one of nouns and verbs again. Human nature is perhaps not what we are, but behaviour, what we do. With the idea that what we believe has some impact on what we do (debatable, I know), the question has become for me not “what are we?” – again, sort of answered, pretty exhaustively if not satisfyingly – but “if we do X, then what must we believe?”
It’s like an audit, doing your arithmetic backwards to check your work. I haven’t finished my argument, not by a long shot, this is only Part #2, but I’ll jump way ahead, give you that question with my specifics inserted in place of the variables:
“If we’re so sure we’re born bad, why would we abuse our children, thereby making them worse?”
That idea has me now discounting our default natures, finding the “what are we?” question beside the point; it seems to me now the question isn’t “what are we,” but “where are we taking ourselves?” – wherever we were, whatever we were.
Nov. 17th., 2017
Dad would have been eighty-seven.
- Trolling and Narrowing the Argument
I’ve alluded to it to it in each of the earlier parts, that details and a huge catalogue of nouns are not where the important truths are going to be found, not under our microscopes, but back up here, with us, and our somewhat higher concepts.
OK, I spend too much time on Twitter, of course again, I’m talking about racism and Nazi science’s endless search for some genetic detail that is supposed to prove some large social concept like racism. The trend I’m complaining about is quickly apparent if you look at Twitter’s science section, and the crossover there with the alt-Right, and the connecting meme of course is “genetic differences” – literally microscopic science to justify macro-oppression. Weirdly, the same accounts that have given Charles Murray a good read and a fair treatment also find Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos to be unfairly silenced voices.
So besides being just less than helpful to explain the world, this view of the world as a million unrelated, individual things, it has principles, sort of, well, associated memes.
Perhaps our forever search for the postulated atom, the Smallest Division, the base particle of the universe has served to turn our scientific world upside down where now we all think the smallest stuff matters the most, ha. One shitty, life destroying gene that’s negatively correlated with melanin and slavery will have been all right and proper after all or something! That’s what some folks want and some liberals perhaps fear from science, all liberals ain’t PhDs either. But that idea, that the smaller bits are somehow higher in some food chain of causality than the bigger ones, perhaps this is why we end up down in the muck with the rats and the flatworms when we’re theoretically trying to solve complex human problems like racism, abuse, war, etc.
Of course, science doesn’t say that, racist scientists say that, trolls say that – or rather they don’t just say it either, it’s all innuendo, plausible deniability, but this is a bad sign: the argument goes to details, genes, alleles, specific studies. That the truth is in the details, that’s left unsaid, we all believe that in some sense anyway, so it’s easy to buy in, to get dragged down into small specifics. If we don’t follow the argument into microscopia though, then we’re likely to get stuck in another trap, psychology, theories about society and ‘the culture,’ and unfounded moral directives.
There is some unspoken meme that science is on the bad guys’ side, or rather, even that the reality that underlies science is somehow on the bad guys’ side. You know, life is tough, harsh reality, all of that . . . is it only me, that the endless descriptions of life being tough, evolution as an apparently ruthless punisher of mercy or passivity seem to come across as advocacy? Like an argument against all of our higher goals? I expect that many of the best papers don’t sound that way, but Twitter sure does. In fairness perhaps, I’m guessing the science promotion I find on social media isn’t coming from the older professors, but from the younger, cyber-savvy crowd. Much of it sounds like someone sharing the exciting news they’ve only just heard.
(I’ve recently read a paper that explains some primate female’s “strategies for maximizing her reproductive capability” in different situations, I think weaning one early when mating opportunities seemed like they may not be there later, like when she’s aging out of her childbearing years . . . it all sounds reasonable about Capuchins or something, but imagine human females as the primate in question. Suddenly, suggesting that organisms exist to maximize the reproduction of their genes starts to sound a little penis-centric, to put it diplomatically. I think some of the conclusions from science can still be called out. That scenario could better be viewed as that female monkey trying her best to survive the pregnancies that are the price of living with the males and their genes’ desires, and not hers at all. After all, the costs are all hers.
That’s an example of science appearing to be on the bad guys’ team, right, the sort of science that sounds like the Taliban, females want to be barefoot and pregnant as much as possible! – because some male designed the study and found what his search was designed to find? It wasn’t any sort of pro-biology or race-related paper at all, corporal punishment was the topic, it’s a respectable one, I think. I shouldn’t cite it out if its own context, and I won’t even repeat the less reputable sort.)
Environmental control of genetic expression, epigenetics, this I find worth discussing, but again, the details, identifying alleles that respond to specific stimuli, these I find to be nouns whereas the point for me in this topic is that many of these environmental triggers are our own behaviours. We are an intensely social creature; we are the environment our flexible genes are responding to in many cases – this is what I mean by what has become my catchphrase, that we are self actualized creatures. We haven’t been ‘using our powers for good’ yet, but to be completely fair, I don’t think we knew it. Remember how they laughed at Lamarck. The truth is, though, that we have genes that are activated or not by our environment, and we are that environment, we are activating the ones we feel are necessary.
Whups! That’s the next part.
Nov. 30th., 2017
- The “Nurture” thing, the Abusive Ape Theory
I asked myself this question, “what is punishment,” or more accurately perhaps, “what is up with this punishment business?” (Side note: I want to say, ‘punishment bullshit,’ because that’s how I talk and how I write, but I didn’t ask myself this aloud. Turns out, my inside thinking voice prefers English. I’m surprised too.) This maybe twenty-five years ago, maybe a few more. For the first two decades or more I was convinced that punishment/discipline/consequences were identical to their illicit cousin, abuse, and that they therefore most likely were responsible for the same sorts of effects – which, yes, I’m still there – but during that period I thought it was some sort of accident, or I blamed cultural things, Leviticus and whatnot, for bringing about this state of affairs.
And I argued with people, in real life while we raised our kids, and for a few years online, while producing the early years of this blog and other blogs where the site has since passed on. The persistence of the normal attitudes around it were frustrating, and that people didn’t seem to have a clear definition of “punishment” at all was also irritating, like the language didn’t exist in which to have the conversation. All this against my background of popular psychology type thinking and very little real education . . . I don’t think I was aware yet that I was stonewalled, that further learning wasn’t forthcoming along this train of thought when some online argument challenged me to read Judith Rich Harris and Steven Pinker.
After a very traumatic reorganization of pretty much everything in my brain rolled out, I was able to bring a little more science to the problem, and by keeping basically the goals of social science in mind and not much else from it, and trying to see both sides of that disciplinary aisle, I have this, the Abusive Ape Theory (not married to the name, but I like the homage to the Aquatic Ape Theory), Antisocialization Theory, and the Consequences Mimic Meme – and I’m delusional, capitalizing my own stuff. But who else is gonna do it?
Really, it’s all there, it’s all out there, there is likely some hundredth monkey thing going on, everyone can know this, today, and I expect many do. All the pieces are out in public view.
The Abusive Ape Theory is the idea that we are an ape that abuses its children, leveraging epigenetic effects to said abuse and so we have created ourselves in the Deep Roots of War image, an ape that systematically desensitizes and traumatizes itself for a group-supporting effect of increased aggression and violence, one that supports our intergroup conflict. Dad says he was toughening us up, Twitler says we will be strong, all of this is the abuse that we feel during the genes’ epigenetically active years, and we adjust our internal configurations accordingly, to be less contented, rougher, and perhaps, as the psychologists say, to continue the pattern.
Antisocialization Theory is simply the apparently dark side of socialization theory, the latter being the idea of us all adapting to our given circumstances and society, learning the rules, customs, taboos, values, etc., of the humans and environment we live in and among. In one sense, it simply refers to the nasty stuff we learn, who to hate, how to fight, but in the more important sense, our antisocialization is the one that matters, because it’s the one with measurable, documented effects. It was Rich Harris who exhaustively laid out the socialization researchers’ hundred year long attempt to prove that parents create traits that they consider desirable in their children, and the near utter failure of it. This, while the mountain of evidence for the less “desirable” traits produced from abuse threatens to block out the sun. Abuse is our lever, the one that does something.
What it does is stress us out, make us angrier and more violent, and the only way to release stress is to spread it around. When a person is so stressed and damaged from too much or too chaotic abuse that they cannot function well in the private sector, the military is waiting for them, and that is as near the aboriginal function of antisocialization as you can get. I think also, though, modern armies don’t need every able bodied (and disabled-minded) male, a smallish percentage is enough – but we are all engaging in the function, and I haven’t repeated this for a year maybe – most of our pre-configured ready-made soldiers are just out there walking our streets, not some enemy’s, getting themselves and all of us into trouble. Yes, we’ve been socialized, both prosocialized and antisocialized, but just like in the movie series, it’s the dark side that has the power. It’s something like irony, to be sure, but if the definition of “nurture” in the context of ‘as opposed to “nature”’ is something the parents do to induce a trait in a child, then it’s a misnomer, because the traits we are able to actually effect are not the traits one induces with any “positive” “nurturing.”
I’m sorry to say, but the proof of the Nurture Assumption’s true underpinnings is that we can indeed modify a child’s development – just not in a “positive” way, and not in positive language. These days, it seems the biologists want to tell us all that there is no “nurture,” that it’s all “nature” – and for some reason, the profundity of real and documented negative effects is another conversation or something, parents can’t “affect” their kids. Abuse is somebody else’s job. The upshot, maybe I’ve never actually said it before, or for a long time –
We can’t teach a child mathematics by beating him and then teach him history the same way. You teach math by teaching math, you teach history by teaching history, and you teach beatings by teaching beatings. You cannot beat a child while expounding about history and pretend he won’t learn the beating – this stuff, this is maybe the worst of the blank slate magical sort of thinking there ever was, the idea that we can. Tell you something else too, Dr. Pinker – it predates Rousseau and all this blank slate atheism, this ‘beatings to produce nearly every imaginable and so often even mutually exclusive effects’ idea. This magic, one size fits all tool idea about abuse, this exists in inverse proportion to your dad’s idea behind the shed, though.
On the other side of our split personalities, we know what we’re doing, Dad knows he’s toughening us up. Certainly, the abuse of boot camp shows that the army knows that the purpose of abuse and discomfort isn’t to make us more peaceful. This brings us to the Mimic Meme.
Mom seems to think that when she whoops you, you’re supposed to get more peaceful, doesn’t she?
So, antisocialization, that is beating a child to grow him up as a soldier, while let’s call it the “consequences” idea – that’s beating a child to turn him into . . . whatever Mom wants, is that right? Obedient soldier, for starters, I guess, and then obedient everything else after that? Obedient concert pianist, obedient foot masseur? Of course, it’s “good” child, “good” grandchild, student, soldier.
Both these memes, both these functions are out there, we beat ourselves violent and perhaps don’t know it, and we fail to beat ourselves into excellence and maybe don’t see that either . . . point is, we mean two completely different things by that one word, “good.” In half of life it means good about everything, good piano playing, good food, etc., but in the other context “good” means violence.
A mimic meme – a term I’m surely stealing and perverting – I will define by example. It’s when we tell a child, “Don’t make faces or one day, your face will freeze in that position.” We don’t believe the explanation, but if the child does, he stops making faces at the family at the next table, no bench-clearing family fights ensue at Applebee’s, peace is maintained – a real life benefit from a false meme, the idea that sometimes, peoples’ faces just freeze in mid expression, permanently. This is what the “consequences” idea is, one of these useful lies.
We tell a kid not to touch the lamp, he touches the lamp, we whoop his ass, maybe he never breaks the lamp, maybe he does, but he’s learned his beating, and we didn’t “abuse him to make a soldier of him,” we only taught him not to touch the lamp. That’s the consequences mimic meme, we can beat a kid for years, kids all live under this threat, so they are absolutely intractably antisocialized by it – but we have done nothing to propagate violence or war, we are simply teaching them how to live indoors and not break our stuff, right? And a house full of unbroken stuff sure looks like peace and civilization, so who’s to argue? Your face didn’t freeze like that did it?
It’s a good thing you listened to me then.
. . . (surprisingly) to be continued. (I thought I’d lost the will for a bit there.)
Jan. 5th., 2018
- Warrior society’s fears, head on, a lethal mutation
More and more, I worry about what I’m doing here.
The way we don’t trust prisoners with writing implements, belts, or shoelaces, you can’t trust people with certain technologies. Case in point, how’d you find me? Social mass media must be one of our greatest mistakes, considering that social stress is the bane of all primates, shortens all our lives as it is. Also, guns, I guess.
I wanted to help the world, I saw something that seemed hurtful and harmful and I figured it out, what was going on, but I’m worried that these things are not meant to be seen and should I affect the world at all, I fear that when the movie gets made they’ll be casting Jesse Eisenberg for my role. Who else but the guy who did such a good job with Lex Luthor and Mark Zuckerberg? Yes, I was the one who saw the emasculation of modern urban men and took it viral, gave it an anti-steroid boost. I was the one who decided that in order to be good, humanity needed to be weak, I am the man who castrated the world. I want to say something about how easy it is for us to slide that intense looking actor with a Jewish name into that cast type, and I want to co-opt the image for myself with a joke, ‘I am Solomon Grundy’ or some crap, so . . . so it all fits, I guess.
I don’t believe any stuff about evil Jews taking over the world, no more than evil Bible people of all sorts, and if Jesse’s somehow perfect in my mind for evil genius roles and it sells movies in the culture generally, then I am a racist, anti-Semitic member of a racist and anti-Semitic society, and I’m sorry, I’m working on it. I wasn’t after any divisive ‘ism’ there at all, the point is, I identify with the evil villain – and so too I identify with Jewish folks, as a not quite white guy, someone who at first glance should be enjoying his membership among the dominant social group but perhaps isn’t. Someone with a grudge forced upon him, someone who deserves some sort of comeuppance and so must never get the upper hand, or even justice, which would be a chance at it.
I mean, I got some bitterness. No more than the average super-villain, but yeah, enough that I might just be trying to destroy the world and someone probably should keep an eye on me. I’ve got a lot of stuff going on here, saving the world and/or destroying it, I don’t think I can do this renovation while worrying about the damage I’m causing, you better protect yourself, keep your gloves up. I can’t do that for you too, I can’t do everything – this is your heads-up here. Honestly, the deep roots of war ape doesn’t need to be told to protect itself, far from it, but I just want it on record that I gave you every chance, publicly, consciously, and out loud. Every chance to put the gun down, put your dick away and talk to me. It isn’t going to be easy, when I spell it out, what I think of you. So far, it’s been innuendo and sound bites in the press, I’ve been meting it out, drip by drip, you might have to have read everything by me to know the true extent of my misanthropy, but here is my indictment. Everybody chill?
We’re a species of child abusers, and it’s what makes us different, the core, not of what we are, we are animals with a large non-human biology, but absolutely the core of what makes us different, the core of our “humanity.” It’s no accident, no new development, and it’s not rare. The fact that we think it’s rare means we spend all day long creating it, we think it’s lacking in the world, so it’s basically all we do.
It’s not for nothing, though.
As in all matters biological, it’s a survival thing. I do not have or represent a high opinion of humanity at the moment, but even from this hole I’ve dug myself, so deep I can see the stars at noon, even now, on the precipice of the Trump administration ‘finding its stride,’ I don’t imagine we would do that for nothing. It’s about security. It’s not complex, and I don’t know if it gets addressed by game theory, but abuse makes you many sorts of tough, because it motivates, one wants to be tough – oops, already writing and still undergoing revelation again! That is punishment, I think I have finally just answered my lifelong question, ‘what is punishment?’
It doesn’t make you self-motivated to obey the rule in question; we still want what we want, it only overpowers our self-interest, you may want that, but do you want this? sort of thing, as we all know, it’s meant to force a cost/benefit analysis. But it gives us self-motivation on the other vector, on the most mission critical thing in life: violence. We will strive to be tough, and the tribe will be tough, because we all feel that if we are tough enough, we are safe, both on the personal level and at the group level. Abuse makes us strong, so, again, we don’t abuse our kids for nothing, it’s to make sure we all grow up “strong,” it’s our security from the other groups. I’m spending time on philosophy podcasts these days, I know it shows, so here’s a thought experiment.
Mom may punish a boy for taking an extra piece of toast off of his brother’s breakfast plate, then take him to hockey practice where the coach may punish the boy for not taking the puck or some real estate on the ice from another boy. Now, how is the boy to learn the first lesson in the face of the second? How to learn the second while retaining the first? Of course, we learn our different contexts, we may solve the apparent conundrum – or we may not, but on a more visceral level, both scenes are the same: boy gets punished, and his solution for the common aspects will be the same: some aspect of toughening him up, from the simple learned experience of surviving pain, desensitization or a dampening of the initial fears to an “aggressive” unloading of it onto someone else. We like to say it’s supposed to be that other boy with the puck, but again, pain, abuse, these are not teaching tools, they change you, is the point.
The prosecution has just completed its opening statement, and this is the charge: we, as a species, abuse our children, to incite violence in them. This is “our group’s” strategy to protect the replication of our genes against those of competing human groups.
If we couldn’t speak to those other human groups at all, then this is the situation one would expect, but we can and we do, and so it’s heartbreaking and endlessly frustrating. If I could just agree, and go along, I surely would, and honestly, if I could go back and avoid the entire train of thought, I think I would do that too. The fate of humanity is way above my pay grade, and I’m stuck now, but if I could have seen the size of the problem going in, I surely would have balked. I may have attempted to say this before – I went from wondering if anything could be done or not, an apparent fifty-fifty proposition, to what I think is an understanding, and my estimation of our odds became sort of astronomical. Like the grass, like the leaves on the trees, one in that number.
We basically have no language that isn’t an expression of inherent group conflict and we don’t know what to say or how to speak without an enemy or a war; I tend to globalize, but if I didn’t, all signs still point in one direction, that every verb is based in a fight and every noun is an adapted version of some opponent. Security demands that we approach all problems at this level and nearly all of our strategies are internal group strategies, with the other groups’ sentience unconsidered, because our strategies must “work” even if the other groups are bears, if you cannot talk to them at all. We have a lot of hopes for our communication, but talking isn’t a strategy in itself, it’s just not dependable enough to be an evolved answer to conflict and violence. At least, other things have not yet aligned in such a way at this point in our history. To date, those two things, conflict and violence have been both our questions but also our answer, our violence as a credible response to someone else’s.
It’s practical, no argument there. Also, the war never ends, active battle or détente, so there never is a safe time, but let me just raise my head above the melee for a second here and try to think in the longer term, as soldiers often try to do at my age, is there a way to not have to do this?
It is not the end of any philosophical roads to see that violence, whether an organism lives or dies, is foundational, our first concern. Even the replication of our genes is a happy, recreational thought when the bear is chasing us, or when the humans next door are feeling uh, expansive, so all biologists, talk a little quieter, go talk to Freud, there’s more to life than sex. I understand that Dawkins made the point that it is our genes’ struggle to carry on that drives everything and not some social animal’s “group harmony,” which, OK, I don’t really see harmony as a powerful force in the universe either – shades of Plato – but group conflict has the power to seriously disrupt the well laid plans of the genes of men and mice, doesn’t it? Surely, some would-be immortal genes go down when species go down, when animals get selected out.
It’s interesting, how we can know it and not know it at the same time, but this is our fear, this is our reaction to any un-punished transgression that we see, it’s a missed opportunity to toughen someone up, and we all somehow intuit that it means we’re in trouble the next time the Hun is on the move. The nurture assumption – the idea that we mold our children – is inexplicable in the conversation about socialization that has tried to account for it, but completely covered by antisocialization theory. It is the dark side of what we have known it to be, and it is unacknowledged, unconscious, but the connection has no extra steps, it is rather direct: discipline is security. Tell someone they shouldn’t beat their children and watch the reaction: it’s a survival issue, and not just their kids’ survival. There’s personal fear behind that too.
So, this is me, the fatal mutation, saying, what about crime, what about rape? What about all the people in the millions and more that would like to see a solution to our solution, to violence and hate? It’s all one thing, violence as a strategy, and violent crimes at home are the evil “side effect” of our strength, so we have a problem. Do we carry on, trying to separate the wheat from the chaff, our “good,” defensive violence strategy from our wish to live peacefully among our own people, which, at least beginning now is no strategy at all, because abuse changes people, at home and on the battlefield? Or do we simply ignore the downside of our methods, after all we’re still here, aren’t we? The last method has always been our way.
Proud, fierce, and brave, this is our model of a warrior, and pride is privilege, fierceness is violence, and bravery is a prioritization of offense over defense. This is the survival instinct stripped bare, and every rat must feel that way to live as well, it’s a good life if you don’t weaken, so my challenge to us is this: find a better model. Your “hero” is an entitled, murderous narcissist. And we wonder, why all this trouble?
I’ve wondered it anyways, and as near as I can see, this is the conflict. If we stay strong, in this way, our life is abuse in a deal that keeps us alive, or so we think, and we think that if we stop abusing our own, that the competition will abuse us in a more permanent way. Perhaps truly, as long as we cannot talk to the other groups, this is the best we can do, folks who live away from the borders can live in some semblance of peace, most of the violence being non-lethal – but again, we can talk, or almost, so we may have options in this modern world that we didn’t before. I would have said ‘any minute now,’ a few years ago, but it seems the world is going in the other direction at the moment. Sometime, maybe. Here I am, worrying that I may destroy the world in my particular way, but as always, world without end, the good ones worry and the bad ones just get on with it.
Leading from way behind, as usual,
Feb. 12th., 2018
- Liberals’ fear of science, dark hints
I’m sorry – you could probably shuffle the titles and the text in this series and they’d match up just as well, and every chapter looks the same to me too. The part six heading is starting to look like the overall one, the series title as well. Same stuff, I’m afraid. I’ll try to come at it from a new angle.
I’ve been trying to learn biology and evolution, brain science, as well as continuing to learn about psychology and philosophy. Blindly, at home alone, reading, I almost walked straight into the library at the University of the bloody Alt-Right (via a nasty little site dedicated to alt-Right “science” called Quillette). I read a bunch of Steven Pinker’s books, Judith Rich Harris, and although Rich Harris didn’t seem political, I’ve since come to understand that the Alt-right likes her and Pinker, and maybe a little bit of why. I know I differ with them both where they touch upon parenting, but I do with everyone. I’m afraid I may never get to Dawkins, I’m not happy with him politically either, but Pinker summarized him, laid out the Selfish Gene idea. It all seemed like good info, biology seemed to line up with reality a lot better than the ideas I had about popular psychology and such, and my thinking changed.
Unfortunately, it seems that biology in these contexts, behaviour, psychology – has become the territory of racists and Nazis. My thinking hasn’t changed that much!
I am not one of those, I swear to God, but all one need do today is mention some biological concept and it seems that one is choosing sides. No SJW, no good person wants to hear about why the world that we hate the way it is would be that way, it seems to be doctrinal that there mustn’t be any real reasons, or at least not biological reasons.
“Societal” reasons, culture-down explanations seem to be the answers that aren’t proscribed, what I see, every hundred tweets, is some version of “. . . because we live in a society which . . .” which is the formula for a tautology and it really doesn’t matter what words precede and follow it. We define a society is a bunch of organisms in a group and it’s rather circular to only define the organisms that way, as members of the society.
You don’t have to be on the alt-Right – and I’m not – to think this: the society thinks what its members think. Yes, there is plenty of meme flow in the other direction, and I know, some lines of thought are simply not made available in certain societies, but none of this communication or philosophy changes biology. If these cultural memes do not serve our biology, they do not last. Natural selection suggests that our eternal problems, the human condition, has at its roots some cause underwritten by our basic biological necessities. The memes we see and hear to support our never-ending struggles like racism and inequality, to support our sense of group identity and conflict, these, even when expressed by the society, I think we can assume find fertile soil in the individual, in our biological selves. Not the tree, not racism, that is not an evolved trait, which again, might have been the Nazi conclusion – but the fighting and the violence that underlies it.
Racism isn’t why there is violence; racism is one of a number of vectors by which to rationalize the hatred of, and the killing, discounting, dehumanization, degradation, exploitation, etc., etc., of human beings and if you think that would end if we were identical clones, then you’ve been listening to the bad guys. Our long aboriginal existence and the long developmental period our species has undergone did not have us eternally battling, pale Swedes against Nigerians. That scenario is rather new. In the normal human situation, our neighbors are our cousins and we have to create ways to differentiate, for security. Any fighting we’ve done for millions of years has been like that, with those guys next door. So, there you go.
I’m not the Nazi here; I’m not the one who blames humanity’s violence on the fact that people come in different colours. Were you? I mean until now?
So, the Deep Roots of War idea doesn’t support racism, I mean unless you want it to. I mean, it does support war. And if you like war, then I guess you don’t probably mind race war, so the connection is there, if not directly, and the Deep Roots of War is still responsible for all of our ills in the end, it’s still depressing as Hell. Because we’re calling it “biological,” some folks will tell you it’s written in stone, and that’s what we liberals hear when we hear it, some version of “that’s just the way it is” – and Nazism. Remember, for certain mindsets, the “Deep” part might mean something less than six thousand years, which sounds short to a scientist, but that mindset thinks it’s eternity. That framing makes if forever, since the beginning, and literally written in stone. Anyone who has read me before, anyone following this train of thought, knows that I think the Deep Roots of War are behavioural, a choice, and that I’m trying to lay it out for us, bring it into the spotlight.
Again, to say that our troubles are based in our biology, a Nazi could say that, but to say “based in our biology” is not the same as saying I like it, I agree with it, and we should just go with it. That would be the Nazi stand (based in a badly biased “reading” of the science), I think; it is not mine. I am an SJW, I want to change these things. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I am also a truth seeker primarily, and to change these things we need to understand them, and if that goes to some aspect of us being animals, then we need to understand that. Not to “excuse it” as some SJW on Twitter assumed just the other day, which I never said and never do, but I understood their assumption. At least online, again, biology seems to be the province of Nazis and racists. Well behavioural biology and evolutionary psychology, to be more accurate. The SJW person online heard “evo-psych” and was done with the conversation.
That can’t go on, that’s for sure. The good folks of the world need to own that science, those people can’t be trusted with it! (It occurs to one that if the Nazis and racists had any explanation, any science or even theory, that they wouldn’t always be trying to co-opt every new gene, every new insight from science. They’re still searching for their first bit of scientific support. We can’t trust their motivations, and we sure can’t trust their talents.)
A Jehovah’s Witness spoke to me a few days ago, gave me a brochure, and the point of his talk and the brochure was, what would you rather believe, these other theories, or a full-blown resurrection with all your friends and family? Put that way, who could argue? But I fear SJWs are choosing their culture-down explanations with the same criteria as the JWs, going with I’m sorry, blank slate social science, the same sort of thing as the ladies going into psychology and leaving firmer sciences to the men, the ladies and the good men choosing psychology and leaving behavioural biology to the KKK. It’s a sad result, but I get it.
In the most basic terms, we often think of two worlds, the nasty old one we have and the shiny new one we want, and it appears that the humanities and the social sciences reach for the new one while many biology projects seem to drag us back and down into the old one. I’m sorry. The old one is where the troubles are, and we carry it with us. The only real solutions are going to be in there, we have to work through it if we ever want that pretty new one, and I do, I really do. I’ve found something too! The answers really are in there, for those who seek with a pure – non-Nazi – heart. I say again, do not fear the Deep Roots of War ape, that’s what the bad guys want. They’re keeping him in a cage and torturing him, only letting us see him when he’s in a rage. They have gentle secrets to hide, truths that don’t fit their agenda and things that work better when we’re not conscious of them.
We need to advocate for the Deep Roots of War ape. We need to look at him with love, understand his fears and address those. The answer, dear liberals, SJWs, is not to hate that part of ourselves and deny it, and it certainly isn’t to let the bloody Nazis of the world have him to do with whatever they want.
In academic terms, the schism between social science and firmer sciences must end, the good people can’t be ignoring science if they have real world goals and the bad people can’t be the only ones with access to the CRISPR machine.
Feb. 20th., 2018
- The “Deep Roots of War” thing
Antisocialization is going on today.
If you get the idea in your head like it’s in mine and look around, it’s everywhere, every bit of punishing going on, every deterrent, every bit of gossip . . . it’s a good life if you don’t weaken, so we design everything to keep us strong. Even the “positive” things in life are often so because they exist to oppose some bad thing, it’s a good life if even positive things don’t weaken, if positive things fight for their existence. Evidence is not scarce if you know what you’re looking for, right now.
But I think we all agree, a thorough understanding means knowing where this stuff comes from, how it starts, and this takes us to evolution, development and to evo-psych and its just-so stories. Now, this is a tough row to hoe for me and my theory. I know, the world is full of things and traits that we have no story for, and it often turns out that despite the lack of a story, the thing nonetheless exists – but with human behaviour at least, we want a story. If you can’t come up with a single scenario in which what you’re describing might actually occur, well, that’s a bad sign, isn’t it?
I had a few images, child beatings with more hair and no clothes, some I don’t know, poetry, I guess, “Lucy, that noble little savage, bouncing her babies off the walls of her cave,” but that’s the full-blown behaviour, that image, not some developmental stage.
There are lions and chimpanzees eating one another’s children, there are lions and chimpanzees sending children flying in simple fights, stay out of my food kind of thing – and then there are humans, laying on the pain when not in the heat of the moment, not in protective modes, neither killing and eating the child nor simply competing with it for present concerns, but rather laying on a beating with a view to future concerns.
I’ve said, abuse increases abuse, violence, crime, and somewhere in the deep past (as in the present) it would have meant an advantage along exactly those lines for those groups practising it over those groups that didn’t, but here is where we lack a good just-so tale, for the change. How would such a thing begin? Scientifically, I don’t have a lot of love for this first guess: failed infanticide. I mean, metaphorically, it’s a gift from God! In English, I get to say that at some point human groups differentiated between animalistic eating of children and the humanistic beating of them instead, and that is low level, early humanism in the moral sense, a species of upgrade. I suspect that the blood libel charge of baby eater goes back just that far, to this differentiation, baby eaters and baby beaters, but just how far that is, I can’t imagine. We, the second group, scorn the first, ostensibly for their brutality, but they are gone, and we remain. They were the ones who weren’t tough enough, and we scorn them because we feel if we became them, if we ceased abusing our children, we would be next on the extinct hominid list. How far back? It must have been before the pastoral revolution, I think, because that seems to me to have required some antisocialization, some desensitization about the trapped creatures, but perhaps long before, perhaps this was going on when all the other human groups appear to have been replaced, Neanderthals, Denisovans, etc.
As to how it began, however, perhaps that is to be found in some science detail, and not up here at theory, one of the gene functions that responds to abuse will have a date or something. I don’t know.
Maybe if I can’t find a way to imagine a hominid experimenting with child abuse for a meaner troop, then maybe the advantage I’m assuming isn’t it, perhaps it’s not so straightforward a group effect, perhaps I shouldn’t be thinking about the group at all. It seems so clearly a group-reinforced behaviour in my own life, though! Does that weirdness happen, then, a group-reinforced behaviour for something other than group needs, for some advantage to the individual? Of course, that’s the evo-explanation for groups at all, that members are advantaged, so individuals made stronger by abuse . . . against who? If it’s against one another it’s a Red Queen’s game. Come to think of it, if it’s a group competition thing, it’s still a Red Queen’s game, one of those things, we beat each other just as hard as we can simply to remain in place, in détente with the other groups.
Hey, that was new, maybe! And by definition, these sorts of evolutionary arms races have their drivers in evolved, biological functions on both sides already, in this case, humans being selected for along a vector of aggression against other humans in the same process. Perhaps like some other things, colour in sexual displays, the game was a tiny, random thing at the beginning, and the rules over time produce fantastic results in certain circumstances and environments. Perhaps I don’t need my just-so story after all, which would be terrific, because even for actual scientists with actual facts at their fingertips, those just-so stories are often their downfall.
I’ll just drop that hint, baby eaters and baby beaters, and remind you that I don’t like it either. As science, I mean.
So, for me, and I’m always willing to project it onto everybody else too, the shitty thing about this Deep Roots of War idea is that you know they’re saying “this is reality. This is the way it is, this is what we’re made of.” Like, “period. This is your hardware. Your civilization, your morals, are a dream.” Right?
Again, many haven’t caught up yet, they’re still laughing at Lamarck, unaware that his comeuppance began decades ago. I’m here to tell you it’s complete, and the Deep Roots of War creature is not some condition forced upon us by anyone but ourselves, each other. The static view behind the idea historically, the DRW, – can I use an acronym? It’s getting tiresome – is it’s our nature, and fixed, and what? No-one wants it? It’s our “nature,” but we all agree it’s bad and most of us, at least on our good days, live in conflict with these base natures? “Everything’s changed now, we don’t want that anymore,” maybe that sums it up. We don’t want it, but that’s the hardware.
This attitude has been adapted for conversations about evolution, but clearly, “hardware” is no longer the model in any such conversation. We look to our deep, newly discovered past, an exercise and a view with evolution written all over it, to say “this is our nature,” a statement of stasis. The truth is, when a trait persists over time, it simply means the problem the trait is an answer for has persisted also and our natures are simply a snap shot of our adaptations. Our adaptation for group aggression persists because we have it and so does the other guy, the conditions for the adaptation are still in place. It’s an interesting situation, because it’s not like a temperature limit or something, the condition is us. We can almost talk to it, but we are subject to it nonetheless. Pending, I’m not sure, consciousness or something.
Is it only intuition?
Is it one those stupid, illogical leaps, or a schizotypal one for me to say we are the DRW guy because we want to be, that faced with your aggression, I will willingly choose to be? It’s not all conscious, of course, and in a dangerous world where we’re talking about survival adaptations, we don’t have as much choice as we might like about those issues especially, but on the few occasions when life does permit us a choice? The depth of the DRW might be rather meaningless if we’re creating ourselves that way in every generation and every minute anyways, right up to the here and now.
The DRW, human antisocialization, the warrior society, this is adaptive, because everything is adaptive, but this is a technology too, and a little more sophisticated than chimpanzees sharpening sticks, the payoffs are so far removed from the behaviour – by a generation! Talk about delayed gratification – as to be nearly undetectable, well, at least by us, the ones in the process. But that is a project, a long term one, and that is my evidence to say, we are this because we want to be this, this we feel is our path to security in the world – to be such a security threat to the other guy that he thinks twice before planning a raid. To be human is to behave as though the best defense is a good offense. But that is not the end!
You don’t get to be that just because you “want” it. Your base wants are giving the rest of us ulcers. Me saying we’re not “stuck with” the DRW, that we are the ones always bringing it along, that we like it, this is not the answer, the stormtrooper answer, well, just go for it then. The “want” is still the problem. I mean, most folks know it, it’s just that then we can find ourselves in these other conversations where it becomes an us VS them thing, “they” want it, while we have risen above it or something . . . this is all kitchen table talk. Where the rubber meets the road, is do we want what child abuse produces? Do we want children that have “learned their lessons?” This is when these choices are made, a generation ahead of the war they have to go and fight.
I’m saying we want it, because we’re getting it and we’re in charge. We shouldn’t want it, it’s messing with all of our other desires, this is not an excuse or a justification, and by the way, how could it ever be? Are we all toddlers? Our “natures,” a cry of “I want it?” When did that ever justify anything anyways?
There is some ‘splaining to do to reconcile that when we are not talking about our own immanent murder, we really don’t want that. I don’t. I know we don’t, this conflict is inside us, our better desires against our baser ones, and those baser ones posing as surrogate for our basic ones. If we survive, in some wonderful sci-fi future, maybe we can match up our better dreams with our basic needs and cut out the middle man. That’s sort of what this DRW fellow is, our NRA rep, and he’d like to be indispensable. He sure doesn’t want us going straight to the factory and seeing how humanity gets made.
Hmmm . . . not sure this one’s done, but it’s getting a bit long . . .
Feb. 27th., 2018
I was very young when I fell in love with the image of a dark, depressed genius, Richard Burton kind of thing, Maybe Judy Garland, maybe Jim Morrison, no-one in particular, the image, really. Edgar Allen Poe. But this isn’t about me. This is about all of us.
We can organize and control ourselves in this one way, we can kill anything and everything, and what we can’t – all of us, yet, at least so far – we can fight forever, or live in détente with, pending new technology.
Wait! Hear me out! This is not the end, there is hope and change in here yet, somewhere, I swear. Damnit, I had it right here just like, ten seconds ago, hold on . . . well, what the . . . OK, please don’t make me have to start with the nasty crap again, every time I lay out the present state of things as a preamble, it depresses my mind and I never get past it . . . it’ll come to me. C’mon, c’mon . . . damnit! Hope and change, hope and change . . . ah! It’s the very first bit, isn’t it?
The “we can” part.
There was a time we couldn’t have done that, and now we can. Evolution makes the impossible possible. Focus on that, not on the scatological nature of my proofs, OK?
I know our apparent specialty sucks, or at least by this point it’s starting to look less like a feature than built-in obsolescence, but we did it, so it proves we can, we did everything the biologists say, out-competed the rest, carried our genes to every corner of the earth and a little beyond. Avoided the predators and located the prey, and except that the ants and Elon Musk also think so, we run this planet. I mean we run it as a madman doomsday fantasy and we may prove it by destroying it, but the point is, we have the power, no-one gave us this world to rule and destroy, we made than happen, we took it. OK, maybe we told each other a story about how someone gave it to us to do with as we would – but it’s not true! We are liars. We took control.
We are presently hoping to hold on to what is left of our external world and its ecosystems, so we perhaps couldn’t imagine it, and many can’t imagine it now, but if we could remember what it was like before we began this techno-nightmare, then we might be able to see that killing an entire planet would be no small task either! Anyone setting out on that quest would surely be the most ambitious ape ever spawned, no? And surely that ape would be laughed out of the tree, considering that there are still many of those who are doing that laughing now, despite that the impossible dream is almost certainly a done deal at this point.
The proofs of our creative powers are all negative thus far, I’m afraid. This should have been impossible, our current state of affairs, that some one of millions of species should take on the rest in some insane death match and actually win!
I mean, it’s not the best thing predicted by evolution, is it? Isn’t evolution the explanation for diversity, quite the opposite function? I think we all understand that many of our troubles stem from evolved functions and their effects changing as our environment changes, that it is some evolved survival strategy of ours that has lost some balancing aspect and has become a new threat in itself that we need to solve now, not just for ourselves but for the whole environment.
Unfortunately, I think many of us think it in just that passive voice, though, functions and effects. I approve generally, I don’t trust our own voice simply speaking in its interests, just as I don’t so much trust my own personal emotional internal voice. I have always been aware of vast dark regions in my own experience, and so I have learned to “black-box” myself to some degree like that. I do think we need to treat ourselves that way to see what’s going on, like some animal we’re observing and can’t simply ask, because our unconscious parts are still important real-world things with causal connections and we need to take all that we can into consideration if we’re trying to find the truth.
If we think of it in only this way, though, we are helpless observers, riders on the storm, and that’s just not it. We have our fingers in this particular function, everywhere we can reach, our DNA is all over it. Again, the proofs are all negative to date – but those proofs are in, we did this by the process we call “nurturing.” If this is your first time with me, maybe you’re thinking – “negative nurturing?”
Yes, nurture, in the sense of influences on children, is a negative thing, that’s the great secret. We decided at some point that the nurturing phenomenon we were looking for was a “good” thing, a positive thing, and why was that? We call it the same thing we call providing food, buy why? Surely the inference cannot be that we humans are unlike any other creature because we feed our children.
Are we so proud of ourselves? Have we looked around and said to ourselves, “look at all this wonderful stuff humans have done! Whatever it is we’re doing, we had better just keep doing at, because who could argue with these results?” Why the hundred-year academic search for positive influences and effects upon human children in a world of strife and struggle seems a saner question, what positive world are we trying to explain? I believe it to be an assumption of something like Christian Original Sin in play here, a core belief that bad things are to be expected by default and it is good things that require explanation, and so that is where our efforts along these lines have been wasted, I mean spent. We are indeed learning from these attempts, and that will all be useful data if we create a sensible structure in which to put it.
I think we need to define our “nurture” idea a little better, and isn’t the point of it that nurture in this sense specifically defines influences upon children that adults actually make, as opposed to what we merely intend, or worse, what we merely say we intend? There is this difference in the definition of “punishment” and probably many other words, between the everyday meaning and the scientific one: in general speech, we can call attempts to punish “punishment,” but in technical terms it doesn’t qualify unless it can be shown to have succeeded and modified the behaviour. I’m sure a scientific definition of this “nurture” thing would have the same sort of requirement. Or, more to the point, as I’m attempting to do, we can redefine the process as unconscious and say the measurable real-world effects we do see reflect the true, evolved, unconscious intentions behind our “nurturing.”
Now, parents all report good intentions, but I don’t really trust these humans when they tell me their intentions are “good,” everything is some sort of “good” for somebody, right? “Good” and “bad” are a little too fluid for that – University of “Hee-Haw” – ask your parents. Maybe if you saw that first weak attempt at the “Ghostbusters” movie, the one with dudes: I’m a little fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing too.
Seriously, though: I think the first meaning of “good” is staying alive, and many, many living things have been known to do some horrible shit in order to accomplish that basic “good,” right? That’s what I’m talking about here, or that’s the space in which I’d like to have a conversation. I’m saying what we apparently want is what we’re getting – well, what we would be getting as traditional hunter-gatherers, crazy, angry, aggressive men that the men in the next village think twice about before they mess with (and crazy, angry, aggressive women who apparently punt their three-year-olds out the door to live at the mercy of the crazy, angry, aggressive adolescents in the children’s’ group to nurse the next child). What we are getting is this human world right here – and I don’t mean right here in a classroom or a library full of well dressed WEIRD people reading and quietly sharing insights, I mean here on Earth, wherever there is conflict over resources, fighting and war, and wherever folks are afraid to go outside. My entire blog has been written in an effort to make the connection between these things. Nice folks, more ladies than men, perhaps, and the psychology minded, many folks intuit this, and while it seems no-one expects confirmation from science, little ol’ I am here to tell you all of that logic and science is really there.
I’ve made the point before: fifty percent of each of us already knows it, Dad said it to many of us: the beatings will continue until you’re tough enough. Well guess what? We’ve “won.” We’re tough enough.
We’re tough enough now – because we don’t think so, and so ever strive to be.
That’s my theory of human nature.
We saw ourselves in the utterly helpless primate baby, and clever, devil-monkey that we are, we figured out how to change it, and boom – just maybe a hundred thousand years or something, maybe only twenty, maybe the entire history of our genus – and we are in the position to affect everything else alive here in the most powerful way. We did that. We saw something, imagined an answer (you could say a process of selection, etc., brought about the answer, but I’ll suggest that evolution does some of these things through the human brain, and that is also evolution), and implemented it, with some spectacular, albeit spectacularly bad, results. Sing it with me –
We are self-created creatures, in the sense of the deep roots of war.
That means we’re not stuck with it, because we weren’t stuck with our lives as some archaic version of chimpanzee just going with the flow of nature, were we?
Sometimes I worry that what we’re up against here is that we haven’t evolved a sense of evolution, and try as we might, we don’t have language in which the world is not static, and things are not simply “as they are.” The “deep roots of war” implies time, and evolution perhaps – or is the point of the phrase that the depth is supposed to intimidate? Things may change, but this is deep, right? Did this concept get coined while we all thought evolution had to be long, slow, and done without our participation? I think this is where my own visceral reaction to the phrase, “the deep roots of war” comes from. It’s a cynical nod to evolution the main thrust of which is, “forget it, evolution, schmevolution, your war is the deepest part of you.” Where have I heard that song before? We are finding evidence of religion as an evolved thing. Further along this line, it is not from a sophisticated, mathematical view that our very brief history – not twenty thousand years of war, right? – looks “deep.” Deep compared to the Hebrew calendar is not “deep” in evolution or biology, at least not for large animals, right?
Sorry, I know – “roots.”
The depth of these roots I will allow back to our common ancestors with the chimpanzees, something deeper than our divergence with the chimps, maybe in the tens of million years, and it’s just a guess or an intuition, but for starters, I’d stop at sixty million, before the mammals got the run of things. All creatures’ “roots” go all the way back to the beginning, and if we’re tracing violence that far, we have to acknowledge everything else that old, like everything. War will be our defining item there when employing archaeology for this question, and the relevant “roots” will likely be specific to primates like us and the chimpanzees – so war is maybe twenty thousand years deep and its roots perhaps in the tens of millions of years deep. It’s not eternity, and it hasn’t been “just the way it is” for very long at all. Things are changing. Something I’d be looking for if I knew how, and I hope some geneticists will pick up the thread, is for the dates of some of these “warrior” alleles, for the advent of particular epigenetic responses to abuse. If my idea can ever show anything like evidence, I guess that would be it.
Plus, we’ve got far less successful/destructive cousins that share all of our “roots” of depth anyway; the difference is in the newer roots, the shallow ones, if it’s there. So. Self actualization?
It’s the science fiction dream, that we outgrow this cycle of abuse and manage our lives consciously, that we perhaps reach an age and a level of maturity where we finally lose our taste for war, of course –as happens for an old soldier in his own lifetime if he lives long enough, but on a species level. It’s a group-competitive function I’m going on about, so all the groups are going to have make the move together, which makes it unlikely, understatement of the year. We’ll be hoping for a hundredth monkey sort of effect, too bad that’s not a thing; as I said, unlikely in the extreme – but quite impossible if we don’t even identify some sort of crazy goal like that, if we don’t even dream it. Again – this present circumstance, that we in a few tens of thousands of years should progress form killing one another to killing everything in order to do it, the whole globe – was also unlikely in the extreme.
I think the way we find ourselves trying to manage what is left of the wildlife is the beginning. In my first draft of this new world, everything is like that, managed, and yes, it’s the Leftist totalitarian nightmare that kept Ayn Rand and keeps so many freedom lovers awake – but I’m just guessing that. I don’t know, I was raised in this system, same as you.
In a mere fifty years or so, I have produced these few thoughts that I think are sort of new; that’s not easy, I’m extremely proud of myself for these few instances of reason, of putting two and two together. I consider these to be rare events and it’s sad that they mostly happen with no witnesses, in apartments where folks brood alone, but so be it. Happy people are not going to be obsessed with solving the world’s problems if it means first proving what is wrong with the world – perhaps if that had been easier; it should have been the preamble, but I’m almost sixty and I haven’t even started school yet. I’m sorry, did I set the whole thing up as if I had the full vision to offer? Self deception in service of deception, I’m afraid. I hoped I would have one, I’ve been trying to have one, write one, staring at this screen day after day, hoping to see what needs to be laid out, waiting for the lightning . . . Gawd, another stop and a restart, like every McCartney song in concert.
We stop implementing our default, evolved solution for our personal security, which of course is a Red Queen’s game, we are constantly in some unconscious battle training and so are “they,” and I’m not sure what happens – but this response we have, our “strength,” it doesn’t solve anything; the whole plan is to be more of a problem than the other guy, no-one is trying to be less of one. It’s never going to go away if this is what drives it, if we are their army’s raison d’etre.
Huh. I find myself wanting to give that the internet’s shittiest boost: “let that sink in,” which is pathetic, I should be driving it in, right?
How about this – if Steven Pinker is right about the world becoming a less violent place, he doesn’t appear to know why, if he had a solid answer to why, I assume we’d have been hearing about it and there would be a debate, but this is why. Somehow, we must be beating our children a little less, on average. Hard to imagine, watching the news, I know, as bad as things are, they used to be worse. This is where we’re stuck, our evolved situation has us split up into groups and being the other group’s problem is our solution. Could some group, some nation, or some faith, make the change, stop abusing their children and so “weaken” themselves and still be all right, still exist and survive through intelligence rather than aggression? I’m asking that if we do not in every generation reinforce every child’s pre-configuration for conflict and war, won’t they still grow up seeing the dangers and attempting to deal with them? Wouldn’t we still protect our lives and our cultures even if we weren’t abused, even if we weren’t set up to attack theirs? Surely, this is one early version of the dream, possibly more likely than the whole world agreeing at once. Of course, Pinker’s improving world isn’t the whole world, nor is it a single church or nation, and if he’s right, then it is happening nonetheless, somehow incrementally, despite that the human tournament has not been suspended, despite that we are still in competition.
There a little hope and change in that, I guess, but time has run out for evolution to do this for us, for this to happen like Pinker thinks, slowly and cumulatively, maybe automatically. My putting improved dramatically and forever the day I finally realized that no-one was moving the thing but me, that I really did have the power and the responsibility to control that putter head myself. I used to try and hope, I really thought it was a matter of chance. That sounds ridiculous and embarrassing, but it’s true, and to carry that metaphor forward, we discipline our kids and hope for the best, and we all agree it’s a matter of chance. That’s fine if what you want is an excuse after the fact, but if you really wanted to control outcomes, you’d be taking conscious control of the process, because there ain’t nobody else holding that belt other than you either.
Same as my putter.
And I was terrified before I took charge of it too! Honestly, if I thought that awful putting was me, and not some element of chance, I’d have sharpened the end and fallen on it. It was a leap of faith, actually trying and fearing failure when I really had applied myself, a kill or cure sort of situation, but like the golfers say, playing well solves everything. Of course, that awful putting was me, who else? But the difference is me conscious about it, nothing else, and again, embarrassing, what could be more obvious, who else did I think was waving my putter around in a jerky figure eight pattern? It’s nowhere near as obvious in the larger conversation, the connections between our discipline and the chaos of the human world, so no shame we’re here, and the fear is exponentially worse. But the experience will follow the same pattern too.
Embarrassment, amazement, and probably an overwhelming sense of “why didn’t we do this years ago?”
That’s the sign of self-realization, right? And you never really know what it’s going to look like until you get there. I’m sorry if I fell short on the hope and change front, if the problem appears strong and the solution feeble – but I guess that puts me in good company, kind of like the real scientists. I haven’t given up for forever, just for today. I’ll get us there, I hope. Eventually.
April 11th., 2018